Craft beer: Czech out these Irish pilsners
THE recent European Championships in football, or Euros as they have come to be known, threw up some fantastic matches, memorable moments of naffness (did you see the wee car bringing the ball onto the pitch) and the by-now perennial reassessment of the whole concept of nationhood and all the wonderful baggage that goes with it.
Of course, if you'd tried to stage a 'Euros' in the first couple of decades of the twentieth century, the competing countries might roughly be the same, but their names would be wildly different. A quarter-final involving Prussia v Bohemia anyone?
The sprawling Austro-Hungarian Empire housed the aforementioned Bohemia, roughly in the area we know today as the Czech Republic, having been shackled to Slovakia during its Iron Curtain days.
Anyway, 'What's this all got to do with beer?' I hear all of you who slept through GCSE history cry.
Well, when we're talking about pilsner, it matters a great deal. The lager style itself is named after the Czech city of Pilsen (or Plzen) with the original Pilsner Urquell still brewed there.
The Czechs lay claim to brewing the original Pilsner and even when the Germans imitated the style, they always gave a nod to its Bohemian origins by call it 'Pils'.
A Czech pilsner does have its own distinctive characteristics, though, and is generally thought to be more full-bodied and bitter than those brewed in Germany or elsewhere.
Of course, craft brewing around the world likes to borrow styles and we're no different here in Ireland, so when I saw a couple of Irish brewers' take on a Bohemian pilsner side by side on the shelf, I was intrigued.
First up was the offering from Hope as part of their limited edition range. Clocking in at 5 per cent, it sure ticks the 'full-bodied' box the style boasts. That's backed up by a bready malt backbone and a refreshing and crisp bitterness. There's a nice floral finish to it as well, as result of the late addition of the ubiquitous Saaz hops, the staple of any good pilsner.
8 Degrees' stab at the Bohemian style comes in at a more sessionable 4 per cent. It leans more towards the malty end of things than Hope, with the bitterness not as pronounced. It's still a very drinkable, full-bodied lager though and the biscuity malt gives it a nice sweet edge.